Paddon and Kennard emerge victorious in the European Rally Championship

Hayden Paddon celebrating European Rally Championship win with John Kennard

In a historic feat, Hayden Paddon from New Zealand has become the inaugural non-European champion of the prestigious European Rally Championship, marking a significant milestone in its 70-year legacy.

Although unable to complete the Barum Czech Rally Zlín this past weekend, a combination of favorable outcomes in other events played to the advantage of the New Zealand driver. As a result, he clinched the championship title with one round remaining in the competition.

Throughout the championship, co-driver John Kennard has remained a steadfast companion to Paddon, forming a cohesive duo behind the wheel of BRC Racing Team’s Hyundai i20 N Rally2 vehicle.

“It’s an unusual path to victory today given the challenges we’ve encountered, but we hold immense pride in our achievements alongside the team,” remarks Paddon. “We’ve experienced six strong rallies and one difficult outing. On the whole, this season has been quite remarkable, laying a foundation for our future endeavors. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our presence in the ERC this year—a diverse range of events, abundant hurdles, and the formidable competition in this domain. I believe it stands among the world’s finest rally championships, and we aspire to contribute to its legacy in the times ahead.”

Hayden Paddon sitting in Hyundai i20 rally car

Heading into the Barum Czech Rally Zlín, Paddon’s primary requirement was to secure a place within the top five finishers to ensure his championship win. This led to a judicious strategy on the Czech Republic’s demanding asphalt roads. As the event progressed, the New Zealand duo maintained their fifth position on the rally’s second day. Equally significant, their main rival for the championship, Martins Sesks, occupied the 13th spot.

Paddon’s weekend concluded prematurely during Special Stage 10 when he veered off track on a high-speed left turn, making contact with a tree before coming to a halt a short distance ahead.

The New Zealanders were left as spectators, awaiting the outcome to determine whether they had secured the championship or if Sesks could stage an improbable comeback to stay in the running. However, Sesks’ efforts fell short, concluding the event in 11th place overall, ultimately leading to Paddon’s well-deserved coronation as the champion.

Paddon and Kennard graced the podium in the initial six events of the season, strategically positioning themselves for success. Their journey commenced with an impressive triumph at Rally Serras de Fafe in Portugal, accompanied by runner-up accolades at Rally Islas Canarias, Rally Poland, Rally Liepaja, and the Royal Rally of Scandinavia. They secured a commendable third place in Rally di Roma Capitale. While the DNF during Barum Czech Rally Zlin marked a slight setback, it was a minor blemish on an otherwise nearly impeccable campaign by the duo.

The 2023 European Rally Championship concludes with Rally Hungary scheduled for October 8-9. Yet, considering that each competitor’s lowest round will be dropped, Paddon and Kennard might opt not to participate, especially since they have already clinched the title.

Hayden Paddon driving Hyundai i20 rally car through New Zealand flags